Theodore Fried - Oil Painting on Board - Forest Scene with Mushrooms and Fungi - "Degenerate" Artist - image 1 of 8

In this deceptively simple oil painting of an autumn forrest scene, Theodore (Tivadar) Fried (1902 - 1980) has captured something of the irrepressible nature of life renewing itself from decay. A theme striking chords with his own journey through 20th C war torn Europe and the eventual restoration of both his personal and artistic life in America.

A white paper birch log has fallen on the soft green moss of the forrest floor where it explodes with new life displaying the fantastic shapes and rich warm colors and variations of mushrooms and fungi. Life is renewed.


Fried was born in Budapest in 1902 and began studies at the Budapest Royal Academy in 1920 where he not only chafed under the established artistic conventions and nationalistic spirit taught at the Academy, but met with a rising tide of prejudice against Jews.

As a young man Fried worked briefly in Vienna where he met some critical success at the Galerie Hugo Heller, but like many artists of the period, he found his way to Paris in 1925 and set up a studio in Montmartre where he enjoyed the flourishing art scene at the Cafe du Dome. He exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in the fall of 1925, followed by well received group and one man shows. In 1927 he met and married Anny Politzer, his first wife, a writer and art critic; their son Christopher was born in 1930. Fried's career went well, and he gained an international reputation with bold figural paintings which drew from cubism, expressionism, and surrealism. He exhibited with Picasso, Kandinsky, Munch among others, and joined La Nouvelle Generation with Leger, Masereel, and Pagnon.

Fried's burgeoning celebrity was cut short by Hitler's rise, and his work along with the work of Gaugin, Van Gogh, Chagall, Kandinsky, Klee, Picasso, and many others was condemned and labeled "degenerate" by Hitler. When the Nazis mounted their 'Degenerate Art Exhibition,' Fried's painting "The Blind Toy Maker" was included. Although Fried was nearly ruined, in later years the appellation of “degenerate” became a badge of distinction - and he was in very good company.

After the Nazi invasion of Paris Fried's wife and son emigrated to America; Fried stayed behind to finish some book illustrations hoping to accompany them when he was done, but by then the Hungarian emigration Quota had been filled. He fled Paris with artist Jacques Lipchitz, escaping to Toulouse where he became a portrait photographer and forged passports and documents for the French Resistance. By 1942 Fried and Lipchitz made their way to Casablanca where they secured passage to New York with the help of Quaker connections. Fried was lucky to be able to get out of Europe with his wife and son, the rest of his family all died in the war, mostly in Nazi concentration camps.

Fried began life again in his new adopted country. He established a studio at Westbeth and joined an artist's cooperative in Greenwich Village, but his marriage fell apart and he was divorced. His artwork during this time explored many themes, both political and lyrical. In 1947 he married Maria Englehardt and together they established an art school at the Hudson Guild in New York where they taught and held exhibitions for over 20 years. In 1978 Fried recovered some of the Paris work he had left behind in Toulouse, and in 1980 he died in Greenwich Village.

The bulk of Fried's surviving work now resides in the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


CONDITION is excellent This piece is painted on the rough side of a piece masonite which resembles the texture of coarse canvas. Signed "T Fried" at the upper right. The distressed, rustic frame looks to be original to the piece and is perfectly appropriate to the subject. Measures 27 ⅛” x 21 ⅜” overall with a sight size of 21 ⅜” x 15 ½”. The board the painting is painted on measures 21 ⅞” x 15 ⅞”. Weighs 5 lbs. 2 oz.

Theodore Fried was a remarkable man who lived an extraordinary life full of artistic triumphs and personal tragedies. That he survived at all seems almost miraculous, it's the stuff of Hollywood movies made real. This piece is a part of his wonderful legacy. Enjoy!

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Theodore Fried - Oil Painting on Board - Forest Scene with Mushrooms and Fungi - "Degenerate" Artist


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